Climate change is the challenge of our times. If global efforts to limit warming to 1.5°C are unsuccessful then we'll see intensifying impacts in Australia and abroad.
Here in Victoria, the state’s electricity sector is transitioning away from polluting coal and gas towards clean renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, and storage. Not only is the shift an essential first step towards reining in greenhouse emissions that cause climate change, but it's one that will create thousands of jobs, attract investment to our state, and help develop a new industry.
"When the winds of change blow, some build walls while others build windmills." - Chinese proverb
Unfortunately, some politicians are using this period of change for point scoring. Some Members of Parliament and their surrogates will take any opportunity to slow the transition no matter how spurious their arguments. Electricity supply and the distribution network is (intentionally?) conflated in public commentary, while renewable energy is blamed for any problem that occurs.
Despite all the noise generated by the #SpringSt debate, we must remember that #ClimateImpactsVic. Here's a brief introduction to the issue...
New analysis has identified 2017 as the world's hottest year without an El Nino boost and confirms the hottest five-year period on record.
The findings have alarmed community members from country Victoria who want to see more leadership on climate change from state politicians.
Ballarat resident Sandra Hawkins said "another record hot year means we need to reduce emissions as a matter of urgency."
"We’re talking temperature increases that affect food production, transport systems, survival of ecosystems we’re dependent on, the effectiveness of health and emergency services, and habitability of whole areas," added Sandra Hawkins.
Friends of the Earth Melbourne (FoE) kicked off the Act on Climate campaign in January 2017. The new project was established as key campaigns for a legislated ban on unconventional gas and ambitious Victorian Renewable Energy Targets concluded.
The main objective of the new campaign was to start building a climate policy agenda for Victoria. With a five-year campaign cycle coming to a close, it was essential to put new ideas on the table and start building community power for another round of climate action.
What follows is the story of the campaign so far…
Energy policy has been a hot topic in 2017. But with misinformation out there in the community, it's time to get informed and set the record straight.
Victoria has seen French company Engie closed the state’s largest coal power plant, Hazelwood, in March 2017 after operating ten years longer than its technical life.
We've also seen the Andrews government legislate Victorian Renewable Energy Targets (VRET) with support from The Greens, and crossbenchers Suzanna Sheed, Fiona Patten, and James Purcell. This initiative will rollout up to 5,400 MW of solar and wind farms across the state by 2025.
Unfortunately, some politicians are using this period of change for point scoring. And it'll take leadership from the community to get the facts out there.
Friends of the Earth: Coalition of the willing on renewables welcome, but “must deliver existing state/territory commitments”
Friends of the Earth, the environment group that coordinated the campaign for a Victorian Renewable Energy Target, welcomes the idea of a joint state and territory effort to rollout renewables as long as it delivers existing commitments:
“A coalition of willing states and territories to drive the rollout renewable energy is a good idea, as long as it delivers existing commitments such as the Andrews government’s Victorian Renewable Energy Target,” said Pat Simons, Friends of the Earth's renewable energy spokesperson.“Australians overwhelmingly support more renewable energy and would welcome a joint effort among states and territories that is a race to the top.”
Recent media reports about plans for a floating LNG import terminal in Victoria are deeply concerning.
The terminal would allow Victoria, NSW and South Australia to ‘import lower cost gas, potentially from the US or Western Australia’.
This proposal, which the state government says it will consider ‘fast tracking’ would further lock the state into unsustainable reliance on fossil fuels.
The Point Henry aluminium smelter was located near Geelong and operated for many decades prior to its closure in 2014.
Since then, both Alcoa (who operated the smelter) and the state government have been considering what to do with the site. It is a sprawling and heavily contaminated industrial site, situated on land of cultural significance, plus conservation areas and other industries.
Friends of the Earth believes that the old smelter site would make an ideal location for a renewable energy park. The smelter used a lot of electricity, which was transmitted by a high voltage connection to the grid, which could be utilised if power was generated on site. A wind and solar energy park could be combined with a range of other uses including eco tourism.
Infrastructure Australia has announced that it wants state governments to hand the operation of their public transport systems over to private operators, arguing that they could cut costs and improve service quality by doing so.
Friends of the Earth Australia (FoEA) strongly opposes any move to further privatise public transport systems:
“Infrastructure Australia was designed to be an independent statutory body so as to be able to provide the best possible recommendations to government” said FoEA campaigner Cam Walker. “But further privatisation sounds more like an extension of failed neo-liberal politics and less like sound public policy”.
Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is an unproven, risky and expensive technology. State and federal governments have put huge amounts of public funds into CCS research for years, in the hope it will provide the solution to the greenhouse pollution generated by coal fired power stations.
Here in Victoria, where we have three remaining coal fired power stations, some are hoping these plants can be retrofitted to use CCS technology.
There are also a number of companies pursuing ‘new coal’ initiatives which will be reliant on CCS to be viable. Most notable of these is probably the Kawasaki Heavy Industry ‘coal to hydrogen’ project planned for the Latrobe Valley
Despite hundreds of millions of dollars of investment, it would appear that we are still not close to even knowing if or when CCS might be commercially viable at any kind of scale. It is also not clear whether CCS will be able to safely contain greenhouse emissions from coal power stations for an indefinite period of time.
ESSO has officially opened its new gas conditioning plant at Longford in Gippsland, promoting it as the largest domestic gas project on Australia's eastern seaboard, and one that will give certainty to the state's gas supplies for about 40 years.
The development will supply 1.6 trillion cubic feet of gas to eastern Australia, which Esso says is enough to power a city of one million people for 35 years.
The conditioning plant represents the completion of the $5.5 billion Kipper Tuna Turrum project in Bass Strait, which has resulted in the development of two new gas fields and the upgrade of a third. The plant will remove excess carbon dioxide and mercury from the gas taken from the offshore gas fields, which will then be processed at Longford.